Bobby Sanabria is a Grammy-nominated American drummer, percussionist of Puerto Rican descent who specializes in Latin jazz.
Sanabria was born at St. Francis Hospital in the South Bronx, where he grew up. He is of Puerto Rican ancestry: his father, José, comes from the barrio of Ensenada in Guanica, Puerto Rico, while his mother, Juanita, comes from the barrio of Jacanas, in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico.
He attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston from 1975 to 1979, where he received the Faculty Association Award for his excellence as a student, graduating in 1979. He received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1983 and was a featured performer on the Mambo Kings film soundtrack. He also appeared on The Bill Cosby Show with the Mario Bauzá Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra.
Sanabria has performed over the years in many New York City public schools as well as all over the world teaching, lecturing on the art of Latin jazz. He has written articles for Modern Drummer magazine, DRUM!, Traps, Highlights In Percussion, and has written liner notes for over 50 CD's. He has composed music for the documentary films From Mambo To Hip Hop - A South Bronx Tale (2007) and Some Girls (2016) He currently teaches Afro-Cuban Jazz orchestras at the Manhattan School of Music and The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. With the MSM Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra he has recorded two Grammy nominated CD's - Kenya Revisited Live!!! (2009) and Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!! (2011) He leads Quarteto Aché, Ascensión, Sexteto Ibiano, and the multi-Grammy nominated Multiverse Big Band producing Afro-Cuban Dream - Live & In Clave!!! (2000) - Grammy nominated, Big Band Urban Folktales (2007) - Grammy nominated, and the double Grammy nominated, Multiverse (2012)
He has performed and/or recorded with the Father of Afro-Cuban Jazz Mario Bauzá, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaría, Chico Freeman, Paquito D'Rivera, Candido, Ray Barretto, Chico O'Farrill, Francisco Aguabella, Henry Threadgill, Luis "Perico" Ortiz, Daniel Ponce, Patato, The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, The WDR Big Band, Michael Gibbs, Charles McPherson, Phil Wilson, Randy Brecker, Charles Tolliver and Marco Rizo.
Afro-Cuban Dream: Live and in Clave! and Big Band Urban Folktales were nominated for a Grammy award.
Multiverse has been nominated for two Grammy Awards, Best Latin Jazz Recording and best Instrumental Arrangement - Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite for Ellington.
- 1993 ¡New York City Ache! featuring special guests Tito Puente & Paquito D'Rivera (originally released on Flying Fish, later re-released on Rounder Records)
- 2000 Afro-Cuban Dream: Live and in Clave
- 2002 Bobby Sanabria & ¡Quarteto Aché!
- 2003 50 Years of Mambo: A Tribute to Damaso Perez Prado - Mambo All-Stars Orchestra (Mambo Maniacs)
- 2007 El Espiritu Jibaro (The Jibaro Spirit) Roswell Rudd & Yomo Toro featuring Bobby Sanabria & Ascensión
- 2007 Big Band Urban Folktales - Bobby Sanabria Big Band (Jazzheads)
- 2011 Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!! Bobby Sanabria conducting the Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra (Jazzheads)
- 2012 Multiverse featuring special guests La Bruja & Chareneè Wade
- Mongo Santamaria, Mongo Magic, 1983
- Mongo Santamaria, Espiritu Libre/Free Spirit,1984
- Luis Perico Ortiz - Breaking The Rules, 1986
- Mario Bauzá, Tanga Suite, 1991
- The Mambo Kings Soundtrack, 1992
- Mario Bauzá – My Time is Now, 1992
- Paquito D'Rivera and the United Nations Orchestra, A Night in Englewood, 1993
- Bobby Sanabria & Ascensión, New York City Aché, 1993
- Mario Bauzá, 944 Columbus, 1993
- Jorge Sylvester, Musicollage, 1996,
- Sekou Sundiata, Blue Oneness of Dreams, 1997
- Michael Philip Mossman, Spring Dance, 1997
- Charles McPherson, Manhattan Nocturne, 1998
- Larry Harlow, Larry Harlow's Latin Legends Band, 1998
- John Fedchock, On the Edge, 1998
- William Cepeda, Afrorican Jazz…My Roots and Beyond, 1998
- Mario Bauzá, Messidor's Finest, 1998
- Bobby Sanabria Big Band, Live & in Clave!!!
- Jorge Sylvester, In the Ear of the Beholder, 2001
- Ray Barretto, Portraits In Jazz & Clave, 2000
- Ray Barretto & New World Spirit, Trancedance, 2001
- Joe Chambers, Urban Grooves, 2002
- John Fedchock New York Big Band, NO Nonsense, 2002
- Larry Harlow & His Latin Jazz Encounter, Live at Birdland, 2002
- 50 Years of Mambo, A Tribute to Damaso Perez Prado
- Bobby Sanabria & Quarteto Aché, Quarteto Aché, 2003
- Joe Chambers, Urban Grooves, 2003
- Joe Chambers, The Outlaw, 2006
- Cándido, Hands of Fire, 2007
- Roswell Rudd & Yomo Toro featuring Bobby Sanabria & Ascensión, El Espiritu Jibaro 2007
- Bobby Sanabria Big Band, Big Band Urban Folktales, 2007
- Bobby Sanabria conducts the Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Kenya Revisited Live!!!, 2009
- Bobby Sanabria conducts The Manhattan School of Music, Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!! 2009
- Gabriele Tranchina, A Song of Love's Color, 2010
- Eugene Marlow, Celebrations: The Heritage Ensemble Interprets Festive Melodies from the Hebraic Songbook, 2010
- Eugene Marlow, A Fresh Take, 2011
- Bobby Sanabria - Multiverse, 2012
- Eugene Marlow - Obrigado Brasil, 2016
Documentary and radio
Sanabria has been a consultant, on air personality and/or producer to several award winning, critically acclaimed documentaries
The Palladium - Where Mambo Was King (2004) 2 hours - directed by Kevin Kaufman - originally aired on the BRAVO network. Covers the history of the legendary N.Y.C. mambo palace which existed from 1948 till 1966. Mr. Sanabria was producer, historical consultant and on air personality. Winner of the IMAGE Award for Best Cable Documentary.
From Mambo to Hip - A Bronx Tale (2006) 1 hour - directed by Henry Chalfant - originally aired on PBS nationwide. Covers the spread of Afro-Cuban music, mambo culture in the South Bronx from the late 1940s, the redefining of Afro-Cuban based music into salsa, the devastation of the South Bronx in the 70's, into the birth of hip hop. Mr. Sanabria was a historical consultant and on air personality, he also composed and performed the films soundtrack. Winner of the ALMA Award for Best Documentary.
Latin Music U.S.A. (2009) 4 hours - conceived by Elizabeth Deane and Miriam Bosch - originally aired on PBS nationwide and the BBC in Europe. 4 hour documentary series broadcast in 4 one-hour weekly segments about the influence and place of various forms of Latin music in American culture. Mr. Sanabria was a historical consultant for episodes one and two and on air personality in episode one.
Mr. Sanabria has written numerous articles for various publications including Modern Drummer, Traps, The N.Y. Daily News, just to name a few as well as liner notes for over 50 CD's. His essay, From Havana To Harlem: Afro-Cuban/Latin Jazz - An American Art Form, was published in the 2011 edition of the Racontuer - Literature, Culture, Society